This morning I set out from Kuppambaduru in Chittoor and met thousands of people as I moved along. Many of them were young people with hopes and aspirations for a bright future. I was reminded of Swami Vivekananda who awakened the soul of our nation and who said that with courage and self-confidence anything could be achieved. He imparted to us the message that, for a strong social structure it was important to leverage the power of youth. If we instill values and principles in the youth of the nation and inculcate the right ideals along with self-confidence, a strong and powerful society can be built, he told us. The youth of the nation constitute its iron pillars.

This morning when I set out on my yatra I was constantly thinking about education, careers and future of the younger generation. The youth of this country who are its backbone. Students and youth whose hearts and minds are filled with hopes and aspirations have been left high and dry from the time of bifurcation of the state without jobs and without any avenue to earn a decent living. They do not see a silver lining on the horizon. The only ray of hope is special category status to Andhra Pradesh. There is no doubt on this score.

Whether it is building a strong society or whether it is to dislodge and throw out rulers who for their selfish ends achieve power through false promises and assurances, it is only the youth who can do it. A leader, who in his party’s election manifesto, makes tall claims about the education and employment of youth is clearly cheating people if he does nothing about these promises 4 years after coming to power? What happened to the concept of Youth Empowerment Decade from 2014 to 2024? Chandrababu Naidu sold dreams to the youth of the state. He built castles in the air and gave them on rent to the unsuspecting youth of Andhra Pradesh! As a result, they feel dismayed and despondent at having been let down by him for not pressing for special category status for Andhra Pradesh during his recent interaction with the Prime Minister—this could not only have lit up the lives of millions of youth of the state, but is also the right of the citizens of Andhra Pradesh.

Today, Chandrababu Naidu hardly ever refers to it and everybody knows why he did not or could not press for special category status to Andhra Pradesh in his meeting with the prime minister. For the first time in the history of this country, a sitting chief minister was nailed with evidence in the notes-for-votes case. This is not the only corruption charge—Chandrababu Naidu is mired in a host of other cases from which he is trying to extricate himself. But to sacrifice the future of the youth of the state for his own selfish interests and political survival is unpardonable. To trade their future for his short-term political gains is the height of insensitivity.

In the evening, I met physical instructors and teachers of computer studies from model schools. They lamented—“Sir, we have been working since 2013 and to this day our salary has remained frozen at Rs.10,000 while attenders and watchmen of the school get Rs.12,000! For the past six months we have not been paid our salaries and when you raised this issue we were paid for three months, sir. If we take leave of absence because of sickness or if the school has a summer break, we are not paid our salaries,” they said. They felt as if their plight was worse than that of daily wage workers. If this is the state of teachers who are working in model schools one can well imagine, the importance which the TDP government accords to schools and education!

Later, in Thimmarajupalle, young Mounika Priya and Yashwant Kumar came to me with an electricity bill and a petition. They said—“Anna, we are SCs and have just a fan and a bulb in our house. We do not even have a television set and yet were slapped with a power bill of Rs. 5,600! The electricity department officials are harassing us for payment of the bill.” When the government brags about providing 50 units free of cost to SCs and STs, how did this poor household get a bill of Rs. 5,600!

In conclusion, I have a question for the Chief Minister—do you remember any of the promises and assurances given to youth in your election manifesto? If you do, can you say with any degree of conviction that you have fulfilled at least one of these?